How to organize a yard sale

Yard sales are an excellent way to meet people, make some money and have fun.  There are many ways to organize a yard sale.  Timing of the sale is important to the success of the sale.  You need to be flexible about pricing if you want to have less stuff at the end of the day.  Let’s start with the easiest way to prepare for a yard sale. 

This way takes less time and energy to set up.

Get a number of boxes or bins to collect your items.  Mark each container with a price $1.00 $2:00 $0.25 $0.50 $5.00 etc.  As you are collecting your items for the sale decide how much you will sell the item for  and put the objects of the same price into the same box.    You are pricing items as you sort them so there is less work to do later. Using boxes means you don’t need to price every item individually with a sticker. Many charities will not take items leftover from a yard sale.  Part of the reason is they would need to remove all of the stickers.

Have separate display areas /tables for each price grouping.    Place a sign on the front of each of the tables explaining everything on this table costs _______.  You are finished and ready to have a great day.

This way will help you to have less stuff at the end of the day

Group your items into batches.  For example a set of dishes, all the hand tools, groups of 10 books, baby clothing of the same size, CDs DVDs.   The person needs to buy the entire batch not just part of it.  This way helps you to move more items on each purchase.   They buy 10 CDs for $5.00  instead of 1 for $0.50.  Place batches of items in boxes or see-through bags.

This way makes sure you get the correct price for the item

If you want to use tags the easiest way is to:

  • use one tag colour per price group.
  • red for $10.00, blue for $5.00 etc.
  • place a colour-coded sticker on each item and when the person buys it, you know exactly what to charge.
  • Make a sign explaining that each colour represents a specific price

If you want to do more work you can price items individually.

  • Place a sticker on the item and write on it the cost of the item.
  • This is good for large items that you will be priced higher.

In special circumstances, tags are very helpful if:

  •  the garage sale is for multiple families you can assign each group their own colour and you know which cash box to put the money in.
  • multiple family members are selling items at the same sale you can assign each person their own colour and you know which cash box to put the money in.

You will need to remove the stickers after the sale before you can donate items.

How much should it sell for?


If your goal is to sell stuff so you have less at the end of day price items:

  • 50% of the original price for brand new or barely used items
  • 25% – 30% of the original price for the older items
  • You can always ask them to make you an offer.  You might get more than you expected or less.

If you have more expensive items to sell do your research to determine a fair price for the article.

Sometimes a yard sale seems like a great way to make money.  Make sure you are the type of person who likes to barter and is not offended when people tell you that something is not worth the value you have placed on it.

If you will be offended and not make a sale, a yard sale is not for you.

To ensure you get the sale by having change.

Make sure to never leave the money unattended. Keep the money in a waist pouch so it can’t be stolen.


  • have $25 in change
  • $20 in $1, $4 in quarters, $1 in dimes and nickels
  • If you don’t have change people will not buy from you.

Timeline for preparing for a yard sale

It takes time to set up and clean up from a yard sale.

  • sort, clean, price                      1 – 2 days
  • advertising                                2 hrs
  • arrange and display wares    4 hrs
  • get change                                 1 hr
  • tag sale itself                             1 or 2 days
  • take unsold items to charity  3 hrs


Advertising is a big part of the success of the sale.  There are lots of Facebook sites, Kijiji and Craigslist where you can advertise for free.  You may also have a local paper where you can place an ad.  Put up signs to let people know where the yard sale is located especially if you are not on welled travelled streets with lots of cars and foot traffic.

Pick your date wisely.  Spring and fall are the best times of the year.  Long weekends are times when people travel.  Weekends are usually better than weekdays.  If you can do it with a number of families from your street at the same time you will get better results.

Is a Yard Sale for You?

Yard sales can be a fun way to get rid of your clutter, make some money and meet people if the weather is good.  If you feel you don’t have the time, energy, a good location, great items for sale or don’t like bartering you may want to donate your items to a charity and spend the day doing something else.

How will you organize your yard sale?  Maybe I didn’t mention your favourite way.  Either way, leave me a comment.

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of physical activity to reduce clutter, in your home, office, mind and time. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

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  1. I would say from experience that unless you have large items such as major appliances or furniture in good condition, you’re not likely to make hundreds of dollars. And like Julie says, don’t be offended if someone offers you less than you think something is worse – you’ll be kicking yourself if it’s still there at the end of the day. $1 is better than no dollars!

  2. It is a lot of work to run a garage sale, or as they say here in CT, a tag sale. I appreciate your pricing guidelines. I always feel that is the hardest part. I think advertising your sale in advance can be helpful. I’ve also found that some items sell better in other venues, such as designer clothes and handbags. So keep the garage/yard sale for things that won’t sell elsewhere.

    • It is a bit more complicated to sell things than people think. There is always a best place to sell an items but then you are take items to multiple locations which takes time. Gargae sales can be fun and exciting but they are not for everyone or for all items. Thanks for your comments.

  3. We’ve successfully run tag sales over the years and made thousands of dollars doing so. But it has always helped to have some bigger items to draw people in, things like furniture, tools, collectibles, bicycles.

    I love setting up zones for types of things- jewelry, crafts, linens, housewares, books, art, etc… We use brightly colored plastic (disposable) tablecloths on the tables to catch people’s attention. And when we’ve run tag sales with multiple families, each family gets a certain color. They also wear a matching T-shirt to their table, so if someone wants to purchase something from the “purple” table, they know who to talk to. And guess who has the purple table?

    It’s a fun thing to do if you like clearing things out, organizing, and interacting with people. But it does take work. It’s not something we do every year because we don’t have enough volume to let go of every year. But every five years or so sounds about right.

  4. Yard sales are a lot of work, but your advice (especially about batching) should make everything easier. The timeline makes the whole process more clear for newbies!

    • That is the thing to remember about yard sales, they are a lot of work so it must be fun. A number of things can go wrong, bad weather, lack of prospective buyers and not enough help.

  5. What a comprehensive post! Thanks for taking us through all steps of the yard sale process. I liked the tip about color-coded stickers to mark everyone’s items, so you know who gets what amount of money.

    • Yards sales vary a lot from one person sell their stuff to families and multi-family sales. If everyone can help with sales you will sell more. The coloured stickers let everyone sell and still get the money they are entitled to.

  6. Great information. I’m not a fan of yard sales. In my area, no one wants to pay pennies for things, so it’s just not worth all the effort. So if I was going to do a sale I’d follow your advice for #1 and take less time and energy.

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